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Shelby, Jones press Commerce Department to enforce anti-dumping laws to protect American catfish farmers

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Senators Richard Shelby (R) and Doug Jones (D) were part of a group of eight U.S. Senators calling on Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to implement U.S. antidumping laws strongly and impartially to ensure U.S. catfish producers are competing on a level playing field.

Sens. Jones and Shelby joined Senators Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi), Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), and John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) raised what they believe to be serious concerns over recent deferential actions by International Trade Administration (ITA) toward a Vietnamese catfish exporter, the Hung Vuong Group, which the Senators say could affect the critical process to determine whether Vietnam continues to violate U.S. antidumping laws.


SEE MORE: Read the letter.


“We are troubled by this series of events, as in recent years Commerce has consistently found significant dumping by Vietnamese fish fillet exporters, and has determined repeatedly that many exporters have been uncooperative in responding to the Department’s questionnaires,” the Senators wrote. “The decision by Commerce to consent to a Vietnamese Embassy official’s request to allow uncooperative Vietnamese parties to impede your Department’s proceeding with further delays will have a catastrophic effect on the domestic industry. Our catfish farmers rely on strong enforcement of U.S. antidumping laws to ensure they can compete on a level playing field.”

“Vietnamese respondents or any other parties that fail to comply with requests for timely and accurate information, do not deserve more favorable treatment than U.S. catfish producers,” the Southern Senators wrote. “We hope your Department will remain committed to strong implementation of U.S. antidumping laws, and that procedural rules will be applied to all parties in an impartial manner.”

The Senators argue that ITA, a Commerce Department agency, in recent months has deviated from standard practices to grant the Hung Vuong Group (HVG), a leading Vietnamese exporter, extensions to provide evidence of its compliance with U.S. antidumping laws. The Senators charge that the agency actions contradicted its own earlier actions to reject incomplete HVG data and to apply standard dumping margins to HGV products.

Since 2003, ITA has found that frozen fish fillets from Vietnam have been sold in the United States at less than fair market value, resulting in economic damage to U.S. catfish producers.

The Senators also met with USDA Food Safety Inspection Services (FSIS) Administrator Carmen Rottenberg recently to receive an update on her agency’s catfish inspection program for both domestic and foreign products.

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The Senators point out that FSIS inspections in FY2017 and FY2018 resulted in more than six million pounds of catfish being rejected for not meeting U.S. food safety standards. As the FSIS has worked to fully implement the inspection program, the number of eligible exporters has dropped from more than 90 in 2017 to 27 in 2018.

The Senators wrote, “To express serious concern over a recent action by the International Trade Administration to reverse an earlier decision in the antidumping proceeding involving frozen fish fillets from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. This reversal will adversely impact catfish farmers and processors in our states, and is inconsistent with this Administration’s commitment to strong enforcement of U.S. trade laws.”

“We have been informed that an official from the Embassy of Vietnam met with Commerce Department officials on May 15, 2018,” the Senators stated. “The following week, Commerce reversed its decision and allowed HVG to refile its untimely response. Commerce then compounded the negative effect of its decision on American catfish farmers by extending the deadline for its preliminary finding, allowing HVG more time to justify the data in its late filing. As a result, HVG received a preliminary finding of no dumping.”

“As Commerce officials travel to Vietnam in the near future to verify HVG reported data, we respectfully request that you strongly urge them to conduct this verification rigorously, and not tolerate further delays or obstruction from HVG or other Vietnamese officials,” the Senators asked.

94 percent of American catfish is raised in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Sixty to seventy percent of the catfish sold in the U.S. is imported, much of it from Vietnam.

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Governor

Governor prohibits evictions, foreclosures during COVID-19 outbreak

Jessa Reid Bolling

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photo via Governors Office

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued an order on April 3 to suspend the enforcement of any evictions or foreclosures due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The protective order is set to last for the duration of the state of emergency that was declared on March 13.

The order instructs all law enforcement officers to cease enforcement of any order that would leave someone displaced from their residence.

“Because COVID-19 mitigation efforts require people to remain at their place of residence, I find that it would promote safety and protection of the civilian population to grant temporary relief from residential evictions and foreclosures,” the order reads. 

“To that end: All state, county, and local law enforcement officers are hereby directed to cease enforcement of any order that would result in the displacement of a person from his or her place of residence. 

“Nothing in this section shall be construed as relieving any individual of the obligation to pay rent, to make mortgage payments, or to comply with any other obligation that an individual may have under a rental agreement or mortgage.”

The protective order on evictions and foreclosures was issued the same day that Ivey issued a stay-at-home order which will require Alabamians to stay at home as much as possible — except for essential outings like grocery shopping and getting medical care.

The stay-at-home order goes into effect on April 4 at 5 p.m. and will expire on Tuesday, April 30, 2020, at 5 p.m. 

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Congress

Alabama may need 2,500 more ventilators. It’s having to compete to get them

Chip Brownlee

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Alabama may need 2,000 more ventilators than it has, and it’s being forced to compete with other states to get them on the private market.

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said Friday that the Alabama Department of Public Health is attempting to source its own ventilators as a number of hospitals in the state are already struggling and asking for more.

The state requested 500 ventilators from the federal government through the Department of Health and Human Services and the national strategic stockpile. It asked for 200 of them to be delivered urgently.

“HHS has indicated that they’re not going to fulfill that anytime soon because they’re still taking care of places like New York City,” Harris said in an interview with APR.

When Alabama nears an expected surge — say 72 hours before hospitals are expected to be overwhelmed with patients requiring life support — they may be able to make the extra ventilators available.

So Alabama, like a number of states, is being forced to try to source ventilators on its own through the private market, where hundreds of hospitals, all the other states and other countries are trying to do the same.

Harris said he signed a purchase order Thursday for 250 more ventilators.

“We’re waiting to see, and then there are others that we’re waiting to hear from,” Harris told APR. “We’re doing our best to try to source these in any way that we can.”

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“We’re attempting to source those ourselves, but as you know, all the states are looking to source their own and in some measure competing with each other,” he said a press conference Friday evening when Gov. Kay Ivey announced a shelter in place order.

Alabama Sen. Doug Jones said Thursday that Alabama will likely make additional requests, but there are only 10,000 ventilators in the national stockpile and in the U.S. Department of Defense surplus. And with every other state in the country also requesting these supplies, the federal government has said that states should not rely on the national stockpile to bolster their ventilator capacity.

By Friday, nearly 1,500 people were confirmed positive with the virus. At least 38 have died. Dire models from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington — models that influenced the state’s decision to issue a stay-at-home order — project that by mid-April, Alabama could have a massive shortage of ventilators and hospital beds.

“The timeline I think makes sense and the time when we’re expected to have a surge is the part that was most useful to us,” Harris said. “We’ve been trying very hard to get an order in place with regards to this surge that we expect to happen.”

The model estimates that Alabama could have a shortage of 20,000 hospital beds, 3,900 intensive care beds and more than 2,000 ventilators.

At least 3,500 ventilators would be needed at the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak in mid-April, according to the IHME model. Last month, Alabama Hospital Association President Donald Williamson said the state has a surge capacity of about 800.

The same model projects that about 5,500 people could die from COVID-19 in Alabama by August. However, the model is live and is regularly adjusted. Earlier this week, it suggested that 7,000 people could die by August.

Harris said the state, over the past couple of weeks, has added a few hundred additional ventilators to its capacity by converting anesthesia machines and veterinary ventilators for use on those infected with the coronavirus.

“Yet, even with adding all of those ventilators, going up by a few hundred units, which means to tell you that we’re still using around the same percent of all of our ventilators even though the number [of ventilators] is going up,” Harris said. “So we know that there are more patients on ventilators.”

The state health officer said some hospitals in the state are already struggling but others are cooperating to share resources.

“They are really working hard to make sure that they have what they need, and we’re trying very hard, along with the governor’s office, to make sure that Alabama has enough inventory,” Harris said.

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Courts

DOJ makes $14 million available to public safety agencies to respond to COVID-19

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town announced that the Department of Justice is making $850 million available to help public safety agencies respond to the challenges posed by the outbreak of COVID-19, which has already killed over 6,000 Americans, including 32 Alabamians.

The Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding program was authorized in the recent stimulus legislation signed by President Donald J. Trump (R). The program will allow eligible state, local and tribal governments to apply immediately for these critical funds. The department is moving quickly to make awards, with the goal of having funds available for drawdown within days of the award.

“Law enforcement are – and always have been very best among us. They continue to solidify that fact during this pandemic,” Town said. “It is important that our state and local partners have the resources they need to ensure public safety during this time. These additional resources will allow that to continue.”

Katherine T. Sullivan is the Office of Justice Programs Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General.

“This is an unprecedented moment in our nation’s history and an especially dangerous one for our front-line law enforcement officers, corrections officials, and public safety professionals,” said Sullivan. “We are grateful to the Congress for making these resources available and for the show of support this program represents.”

The solicitation was posted by the Bureau of Justice Assistance in the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and will remain open for at least 60 days. The program can be extended as necessary. OJP will fund successful applicants as a top priority on a rolling basis as applications are received. The funds may be used to hire personnel, pay overtime costs, cover protective equipment and supplies, address correctional inmates’ medical needs and defray expenses related to the distribution of resources to hard-hit areas, among other activities.

The grant funds may be applied retroactively to January 20, 2020, subject to federal supplanting rules.

Agencies that were eligible for the fiscal year 2019 State and Local Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program are candidates for this emergency funding. A complete list of eligible jurisdictions and their allocations can be found here.

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For more information about the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding program click here.

As of press time, there were 1,270 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alabama. 32 Alabamians have already died. There have been deaths in Jefferson, Shelby, Mobile, Lee, Madison, Chambers, Washington, Baldwin, Jackson, Tallapoosa, Lauderdale, Marion, Etowah, and Baldwin Counties.

 

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Economy

Fifty major American companies join effort to fight the coronavirus

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, the White House announced that fifty major American firms have answered the White House’s call to join the national war on the coronavirus.

“The private sector is responding to President Trump’s call to step up and help combat the coronavirus,” the White House said Tuesday.

Many of the companies are shifting their focus and even assembly lines to deliver needed supplies to the doctors, hospitals, and first responders against the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Most did so voluntarily and were not coerced by government or threatened with the Defense Production Act.

Major corporations including: Facebook; Anheuser-Busch; Ford; Fiat Chrysler; Toyota; GE Healthcare; 3M; Jockey; Hanes; Ralph; Lauren; GE Healthcare; General Motors; and My Pillow have all stepped up and are contributing to the COVID-19 war effort.

. “While by no means comprehensive, these are some notable examples of the private sector stepping up,” said an administration official.

The National Sheriffs’ Association have cited: Home Depot, Grainger, and Staples as well as a half-dozen national restaurant chains for their help.

Their pleas for help have been “enthusiastically welcomed” by some top corporations, said National Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director and CEO Jonathan Thompson. “What they are doing is more than impressive. It’s heartening,” he said.

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My Pillow has dedicated 75 percent of its production to the effort making PPE.

President Trump has highlighted the role that our corporate partners are playing in the COVID-19 effort during his daily coronavirus task force press conferences.

“With our great president, vice president and this administration and all the great people in this country praying daily, we will get through this and get back to a place that’s stronger and safer than ever,” said My Pillow founder and CEO Mike Lindell.

“Joining us this afternoon are CEOs of the great American companies that are fulfilling their patriotic duty by producing or donating medical equipment to help meet our most urgent needs,” Pres. Trump said on Monday. “What they’re doing is incredible. And these are great companies.”

Ford, 3M and GE Healthcare are making ventilators in a joint effort.

Toyota is using their facilities to produce face shields and collaborating with medical device companies to speed up manufacturing of vital medical devices.

General Motors is manufacturing respiratory masks and working with Ventec Life Systems to mass produce ventilators.

Fiat Chrysler is manufacturing and donating more than 1 million protective face masks a month.

Honeywell has doubled their production of N95 masks and intends to increase its capacity 500 percent over the next 90 days.

3M doubled their global output of N95 respirator masks and plans to make 100 million a month.

SpaceX is making hand sanitizer and face shields for local hospitals.

Lockheed Martin donated use of their corporate aircraft and vehicle fleet for medical supply delivery,

Boeing will print 3D face shields for healthcare workers and offer its Dreamlifter aircraft to help coronavirus response efforts.

Anheuser-Busch is working to produce hand sanitizer.

Bayer, Novartis, and Teva Pharmaceuticals donated millions of doses of hydroxychloroquine, an experimental treatment for COVID-19 that has shown some early promise.

·Johnson & Johnson has partnered with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to commit more than $1 billion to co-fund vaccine research, development, and clinical testing.

Procter & Gamble is ramping up its production capacity for hand sanitizer, and is working to produce face masks.

Medtronic is increasing its production of ventilators.

Panera Bread is partnering with USDA to serve meals to children throughout Ohio.

Economic developer Dr. Nicole Jones said, “The private sector has the ability to move with incredible speed. Many companies already own the equipment that can produce various items and have tweaked processes to manufacture products our country needs. For example, clothing companies such as Ralph Lauren, Hanes, and Brooks Brothers are making gowns and masks. Ford and GE combined forces to produce ventilators. Alcoholic beverage companies repurposed what would be normally be discarded into hand sanitizers. All of these are examples of American workers’ willingness to step up at a critical time in United States and world history.”

(Original reporting by the Washington Examiner contributed to this report.)

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